Mint Cocoa Green Smoothie

IMG_5134

Last spring, my neighbor planted mint in our shared vegetable bed. If you’ve ever tended a garden or had experience growing mint, you know that by the next season, the only thing you will find growing in that plot of dirt (and any plot of dirt in a 30 ft. radius) are very enthusiastic/ invasive mint shoots. This has been my introduction to spring. Lots of mint. So, the crisp, green herb has been making an appearance in several recipes I’ve been experimenting with recently. In addition to being added to water for a refreshing kick and sprinkled in generous amounts on fruit salad.

This smoothie is my play on the Thin Mint cookie. It’s packed full of green veggies, uses a good amount of those mint leaves and has the added fiber and antioxidants of raw cocoa. Injoy!

 

1 ½ cups water (coconut water also makes a great base)

1 scoop whey or pea protein (I like the Wow brand. Unsweetened or Vanilla)

1 frozen banana

1 cup raw spinach

½ cup raw kale

1 cup fresh mint leaves

10 raw almonds

2 Tbls. raw cocoa nibs

1 Tbls. chia seeds

2 dates

Blend all ingredients in bender until smooth. Add additional water for desired consistency. Injoy!

*If your kale is especially bitter, add an extra date or a small amount of honey to balance out a bit of sweetness. It should be tasty and appealing but not overly sugary.

 

Mystery Box Challenge: Persimmons, Jicama, Anaheim Chili, Mint, Fresh Ginger and Lamb Chops

IMG_2642

Every so often I like to pretend I’m on Chopped (one of my favorite cooking programs) and participating in a Mystery Box Challenge. You know the one, the box of several mystery ingredients that usually don’t pair well, and a limited amount of time to create an awesome dish to present. In my version, I imagine myself closing my eyes and spinning around in circles in the middle of the produce department of my grocery store and throwing the first few items I point at into my basket. In reality I peruse the brightly colored shelves and give myself 1 minute to choose 4 random items that I’ve never worked with before and take them home to play in the kitchen. And I don’t give myself a time limit, just try to engage my creativity and come up with something seasonal and delicious for dinner.

On this particular foggy Tuesday afternoon, I stopped at the produce stand a few blocks from my home. I had gone to pick out a few items for a dining room centerpiece. Hard, colorful little bundles of decorative corn on the cob, a bumpy dark green gourde and a perfectly round white pumpkin. As I shopped, more veggies were being loaded in from the farm truck and I started to get inspired. Persimmons, about 9 different varieties of squash and lots of leafy greens were beginning to stack up near the entrance. Mmmmm! A perfect opportunity for a Mystery Box Challenge!

I glanced at my watch and begun the 1 minute countdown. I knew those perfectly ripe persimmons were coming with me, so I immediately put 4 into my basket. After that, I passed the pyramid of jicama, a yam-like vegetable from Mexico. I had no idea what to do with that, perfect! Into the basket. Next, I walked quickly over to the herb section. Mint and fresh ginger jumped out at me. Not a likely pair. I very rarely cook with mint unless it’s sprinkled on a fruit salad, so that was a great addition. And ginger I’ve mostly only used in smoothies, tea and an occasional pumpkin pie. Into the basket they went. Lastly, I knew I wanted something with a kick. I grabbed the first hot pepper I saw, which happened to be an Anaheim chili. Great! Done! On the way home, I also stopped by the butcher and picked up a couple of lamb chops for protein and snipped a few sprigs of rosemary from my neighbor’s enormous hedge.

Back in the kitchen, my culinary adventure began. Without realizing it initially, several of the ingredients come from the warmer southern region and actually pair together quite nicely. I used the jicama and fresh mint in a slaw with green apples and carrots. The persimmons I made into chutney with the chili and ginger along with golden raisins, green apple and other warming spices. This went perfectly with the lamb chops, for which I made a rub with the fresh rosemary and some garlic and sea salt. It all came together beautifully! In addition I did sauté up some kale and onion with coconut oil as the plate was looking a bit void of greenery.

When is the last time you challenged yourself in the kitchen or in other areas of your life? Where do you become your most creative self? Do you tend to stay within your comfort zone much of the time? There is a popular saying ‘Magic happens outside your comfort zone.” I certainly agree with that sentiment and the delicious meal created that day is a shining example. This week, think outside the box. Pick up an ingredient you’ve never worked, or try a new technique in the kitchen you’ve never tried (wok much?). Challenge yourself, get creative and have fun! Injoy!

 

Jicama and Green Apple Slaw

IMG_2623 IMG_2627

Ingredients:

1 cup matchstick-cut Granny Smith apple

1 cup matchstick-cut jicama

1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

Instructions:

1. Toss apple, jicama and carrots together in a large bowl.

2 Place mint leaves, olive oil, sugar, vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until blended but slightly chunky, about two 10-second intervals.

3. Pour dressing over apple mixture; toss until well mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Persimmon Chili Chutney

IMG_2551 IMG_2571

Ingredients:

2/3 apple cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup water

1 cup chopped onion

1 large tart apple – peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Anaheim chili pepper, chopped fine

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

4 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped

Instructions:

1. In a large saucepan combine the apple cider vinegar, water, chopped onion, chopped apple, golden raisins, sugar, lemon juice, chili, ginger, lemon peel, coriander and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Add the persimmons and simmer until the persimmons are tender about 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate chutney. May be made a day or two ahead.

 

Rosemary Crusted Lamb Chops

IMG_2635 IMG_2593

Ingredients:

1 pound lamb chops or rack of lamb

2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

Instructions:

1. In a small bowl, mix the rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the        olive oil together. Coat the lamb chops with the mixture, massaging it into the meat with your fingers. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, sear the lamb chops on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

3. At this point, if you want your lamb chops rare, they are likely cooked enough. Remove them from the pan; cover them with foil and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. If you would like your chops more cooked, you can put them in a 400°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or keep them in the hot pan, remove from heat, and cover the pan for a few minutes. Then remove from the pan to a plate or cutting board, cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving

Breakfast Chicken Sausage

IMG_4195

While shopping for breakfast protein recently, I discovered that my beloved turkey bacon brand had begun to include carrageenan in their ingredient list. This is bad news. Carrageenan is an additive with no nutritional value that is derived from raw seaweed and is widely used as a thickening agent in milk alternatives (boxed soy, almond, rice milk etc.), ice cream and yogurt. One of the main reasons I started making my own Almond Milk.

Carrageenan is known to cause inflammation to the digestive system, and in the past, drug investigators actually used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. In addition, when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes. More bad news for our country’s already soaring diabetes rates. Best to stay away from Carrageenan.

Alas, a delicious homemade breakfast sausage recipe, nutritious and free of pesky preservatives! Injoy!

 

Ingredients:

1. 1 lb ground chicken

2. 2 tsp fennel seed

3. 2 tsp dried rosemary

4. 1 ½ tsp garlic powder

5. 1 ½ tsp dried sage

6. ½ tsp salt

7. ¼ tsp black pepper

 

Instructions:

1. Grind the fennel seed and the rosemary in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to break down the spices (recommended).

2. Combine all of the spices together.

3. Incorporate the spice mixture into the chicken.

4. (Optional) Fry 1-2 tsp of the meat in a skillet to see if you need to adjust the seasoning.

5. Form into 10 equal patties.

6. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat and brown the patties for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through.

7. Serve with your favorite vegetable.

 

In the Crockpot: Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_4047

This soup rocked my world this weekend! And got rave reviews from the friends I shared it with, I might add. An extremely simple recipe to create, just gather the ingredients, toss them into the Crockpot and leave it alone for 6-8 hours. At the end, blend it all up into a creamy pot of deliciousness and enjoy! This is the perfect type of meal to prepare the night before, set the Crockpot to ‘on’ before you leave for work and have a hot, delicious, nutritious meal waiting for you around dinnertime.

Recipe:

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, rough chopped

1 can full-fat coconut milk or equivalent amount of homemade coconut milk

1 cup chicken broth

1 apple, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and set to Low. Allow 6 to 8 hours to cook. When squash is soft, blend soup with an immersion blender or carefully transfer to a blender to process. Consistency should be smooth and silky.

Season with unrefined sea salt and pepper, and top with a swirl of olive oil or balsamic vinegar. In the photo, I also added a topping of crisp bacon for a little extra protein and green onions for a tasty zing. Injoy!

Thanksgiving Recipes! Bacon Herbed Turkey, Brussels Sprouts and Cranberry Sauce

IMG_3249

As promised, here are the recipes from a very merry Paleo Thanksgiving, starting with the bird, of course! Below, you will also find instructions for the Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts and Easy Orangey Cranberry Sauce. Injoy!

IMG_3329

Brined, Herb Roasted Turkey

Brining is the process of soaking meat in a salt solution. The saltwater is absorbed into the meat, adding extra moisture. The result is that the turkey will hold onto more juices and flavor than it would otherwise. I’m the first to admit, brining can be a bit of a hassle, and while I relish spending all day in the kitchen, I work with a lot of folks that don’t. That’s why they hire me, to learn all the shortcuts possible and still acquire the most nourishment from their meals. That being said, this is an area where it really pays off to take the extra time and make it over-the-top. Once you try brining, it will be hard to go back to the old way of doing things.

Brine

· 1 cup salt

· 1⁄4 cup molasses

· 3⁄4 cup sucanat or coconut sugar

· 2 oranges, skins scrubbed thoroughly and cut in quarters

· 2 lemons, skins scrubbed thoroughly and cut in quarters

· 6 sprigs thyme

· 4 sprigs rosemary

· 1 (10 to 12-pound) turkey

· 1 large orange, scrubbed and cut into 1/8ths

· 4 tablespoons refined coconut oil (refined oil has less coconut flavor) OPTIONAL: sub unsalted butter at room temperature

· Salt and pepper

· 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/8ths

· 1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

· 1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces

· 2 bay leaves

· 5 sprigs thyme

· 4sprigs rosemary

· 1/2 bunch sage

· 3 or 4 sprigs parsley

· 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or turkey stock, for basting

1. To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt, molasses and sugar in 8 cups of water on the stove. Add this to 2 gallons of cold water in a nonreactive container (such as a clean bucket or large ceramic stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, food grade plastic storage bag).

2. Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary. Note: if you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup sucanat for every gallon of water.

3. Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the turkey. (I recommend putting them immediately on the stove in a pot of water to begin making a stock for the gravy. It is incredibly nutritious to utilize these organs meats. They can also be incorporated into a soup stock with the carcass or roasted separately and enjoyed.)

4. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

6. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels both inside and out. Place turkey, breast side up, in a large, heavy roasting pan.

7. Rub breast side with orange segments and rub on all sides with the coconut oil or butter, stuffing some underneath the skin. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper.

8. Stuff the turkey with the onion, remaining orange, celery, carrot, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley. Slip some herbs under the skin on the breast side between the meat and connective tissue. For added silly fun, place two lemon halves under the skin to give the lady turkey effect.

9. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string.

10. Roast the turkey, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour.

11. Remove from the oven, turn, and baste with 1/2 cup stock. Continue roasting with the breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the largest section of thigh (avoiding the bone), about 2 3/4 to 3 hours total cooking time.

12. Wrap the turkey in smoked maple bacon for the remaining duration of the cooking time for added moisture and flavor. (optional)

13. Baste the turkey once every hour with 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken or turkey stock.

14. Remove from the oven and place on a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

15. Don’t forget to make a wish with the wishbone!

16. Also, save the bacon to blend with the turkey drippings and stock to make gravy. This was seriously the best idea I’ve ever had.

IMG_3348

Maple Bacon Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

So many of the people in my life make a scrunched face when I mention Brussels sprouts being one of my very favorite vegetables. Like anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to enjoy this earthy veggie. Roasting is the perfect way to bring out the delicate flavors and create the best texture possible. And really, adding bacon makes pretty much anything delicious.

· 2 lbs Brussels sprouts

· 6 slices thick cut bacon

· 1/4 cup real maple syrup

· 2 large shallots

· 2 Tbsp bacon fat (drained from bacon)

· sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon, draining all but a tablespoon or so of fat into a glass bowl.

2. Cook shallots in the leftover fat in the pan.

3. Cut large sprouts in half.

4. In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts in fat and maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt and fresh paper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are browned.

5. While the sprouts are roasting, chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the shallots.

6. Remove sprouts from oven and add bacon mixture.

IMG_3282

Easy Orangey Cranberry Sauce

I tend to have a negative visceral response to the cranberry sauce of my childhood. The suction sound it makes as it’s exiting the can, the shape of all the little rivets that it holds, just standing there in the bowl, the overly sweet, metallic flavor. With cranberry sauce this easy to make, you’ll never need that purple canned stuff again!

· 1 bag of fresh cranberries

· Zest of 1 organic orange (Best to get organic since we will be using the skin.)

· 1/2 cup maple syrup

· 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (Optional, to turn some or all of your cranberry sauce into a chutney.)

1. Bring cranberries, orange zest and maple syrup to a slow boil and then simmer for 10-20 minutes, until thickened. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

2. Add walnuts while it’s cooling.

Stellar Supper: Fish en Papillote

IMG_1923

Living in the Pacific Northwest, my kitchen is fortunate enough to see the freshest and most delicious seafood of all kinds. And I do love all kinds of seafood. The snap of a plump shrimp being readied to grill. Fresh wild caught Copper River salmon with a simple lemon garlic sauté. The briny flavor of what my guy affectionately refers to as the bottom feeders… muscles, clams, oysters. It is all in regular rotation through my meal plans.

Tonight’s supper idea came from a local food writer Kathleen Flinn, and is a modified version from her memoir Kitchen Counter Cooking School. En Papillote is a French technique and simply means baked in paper. The preparation of this delicious and nutrient-packed meal is unbelievably quick and easy (It is more assembly than cooking, really.), involves very little clean up and the results are super fresh and flavorful. It really is a stellar way to enjoy fish.

And though I do recommend fish as an awesome source of nutrition, mainly packed full of Omega 3s, there is much controversy about the very real issue of overfishing, as well as the unfortunate health risks due to our ocean’s toxicity levels. I certainly do not want to be a buzz kill here, or detour you from eating fish, but I feel it is important to add a word on these challenges. It has been upheld by many health professionals that wild caught fish is the best overall for our consumption. These fish intake all of their natural nutrients, passing that awesome nutrition onto us, get adequate exercise doing what they do best, swimming, and live out their days in their natural state, being part of an interconnected ecosystem. Farmed fish on the other hand are often sectioned off in a coastal part of the ocean called offshore Aquaculture, which is detrimental to the oceans in those areas. Farmed fish, just like other livestock, live in overcrowded conditions and are fed antibiotics to combat the risk of infection. These drugs go into our oceans as well as our bodies when we consume them. In addition, the nutritional value is diminished greatly in farmed fish.

There has been a lot of research about farmed fishing, also known as Aquaculture, and is supported by many experts in the field including NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a way to ease the pressure of overfishing on our oceans. This is a concern since we are rapidly overfishing to the point of extinction in certain species. Though this argument doesn’t quite hold up since it requires at least 5 lbs. of wild caught fish to raise 1 lb. of farm fish. Meaning we are still catching 5 times more wild fish to feed to our farmed fish. Not very sustainable. And since there is a real danger of mercury in our oceans, not to mention the 300 tons of radioactive water that is still being leaked into the Pacific daily from the crippled Fukushima Plant in Japan, it is best to moderate the amount of fish consumed. My recommendation is twice a week. Also, consult the Seafood Watch guide and select varieties that are the best choices for your region. Finally, if you enjoy catching your own fish in alpine lakes, all the better!

Alright, back to the yummy stuff. Aside from all the controversy surrounding fish, let me say again that it is an excellent source of nutrients and should be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet.

Following is the recipe for the Fish en Papillote. Enjoy!!

IMG_1934

Ingredients:

(Serves 2 individual packets)

1 ½ Tbls. olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Two 4 to 6 ounce cuts of fish (I used salmon)

Few springs of fresh herbs (dill, basil, thyme, rosemary) I used thyme and rosemary

3 thin slices of fresh lemon

¼ cup water or stock

½ to ¾ cup fresh vegetables (zucchini, shallots, onion, broccoli, leeks fennel, mushrooms, carrots)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400

2. Start with 2 pieces of parchment paper, 10×12 inches each, fold in half

3. On one side of the middle crease of each piece drizzle the olive oil and a dash of the alt and pepper. Add fish and turn over to coat.

4. Place the rest of the ingredients on top and around the fish

5. Fold the paper like a book and crimp the edges securely to avoid allowing any liquid or steam to escape. Here is a quick video tutorial.

6. Place the packet on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to sit at least 2 minutes after removing it from the oven.

7. Open carefully and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Stellar Supper: Pork Tenderloin with a Fresh Fig Glaze

IMG_0741

Walking through the isles of Central Market, the senses come alive with the sights, smell and sounds of the huge, bustling international grocery store. A fresh shipment of live Dungeness crabs crawl all over one another in a water filled tank near the entrance. The lobsters are still and stoic, following movements with their watchful eye, as if they know something big is about to happen. The aroma of coriander, ancho chili powder and bourbon vanilla beans waft from the wall of exotic spices in the expansive bulk section, drawing you in. Fresh vegetables and fruits, a colorful rainbow of options in the produce section. And then there’s my favorite part, the live demo and sample station. Two men in white chefs coats stand behind sizzling cast iron skillets serving up the most delicious looking little plates. Pork tenderloin with fresh mission figs in a honey and white wine glaze. I am immediately inspired. I grab a pound of fresh pork tenderloin from the butcher, and gather the other ingredients making a few adjustments to the recipe. I leave out the honey since the figs are super sweet and will create a lovely sauce all on their own. I also add roasted hazelnuts to balance out the texture and add a bit more healthy fats and protein. Add a handful of spinach or some a portion of steamed kale and you’ve got a yourself a scrumptious supper! Enjoy!

IMG_0744

Ingredients

I lb. pork tenderloin

2 Tbls olive oil

½ pint fresh mission figs

1 cup dry white wine

½ cup roasted hazelnuts

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil to a heavy bottomed skillet, heat to medium
  2. Cut pork tenderloin into medallions, add to skillet
  3. Season liberally with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes each side
  4. Remove from pan. Set aside on plate loosely covered with foil.
  5. Add a touch more oil to the pan and add figs, halved
  6. Sautee for 3-5 minutes, add white wine and scrape up the drippings
  7. Return pork to the pan, along with the juices collected
  8. Add hazelnuts at the very end

Serve with a salad, a portion of steamed greens or over quinoa brown rice!